Halloween Treats

Does anyone else feel the “kitchen” pressure in October?

For me October is always such a demanding month for sugary treats, second only to December. It always starts off with my son’s birthday and initially I am excited to make a Halloween themed cake. Then a notice came home this year for each child to bring a Halloween cake for a cake walk fundraiser. And don’t forget about the class party on Halloween day – which I never understand. ¿Do kids not get enough treats trick-or-treating that they need to start off their day with a party and a table full of sugary snacks? There are some really fun NON-sugary treats for Halloween and I often default to those if a class snack is asked for.

I have included a bunch of Halloween Treat ideas on my Pinterest page if you need some quick and spooky ideas. https://www.pinterest.ca/adriennebraithw/halloween/

Here are also a couple of my October 2017 creations:

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Meringue Ghosts: 4 Egg Whites, 1/4 tsp of Cream of Tartar, 1 Cup of Sugar and a few melted chocolate chips for the eyes. Whip up the Egg Whites until soft peaks form. Add Cream of Tartar and whip until Stiff Peaks form. Slowly add sugar until it is fully mixed. Pipe onto Parchment lined cookie sheets and bake at 200 Degrees for about an hour or until they have firmed up a bit. If your oven is too hot, the meringues will brown on the tops. 

Oreo Halloween Cake PopsOreo Halloween Cake Pops:

These are pretty easy and fun! I used chocolate flavoured Candy Melts just to make sure they hardened properly. Just pop in the popsicle stick into the Oreo cookie, dip in the candy melt and cover with your choice of sprinkles. These are great for sending to school on your child’s birthday or for school parties. 

 

 

Skeleton Cake:

Now this was a lot of fun and really not hard to make. I used 2 Fudge Chocolate cake mixes and make three 8″ cakes (made 12 cupcakes with the leftover cake batter). The icing was a simple Chocolate Icing (Margarine, Icing Sugar, Cocoa Powder and some heavy cream). Once the cake was assembled I poured over some chocolate fudge sauce and left to harden in the fridge overnight. Before sending to school, I added on the skulls. If you add them on immediately after pouring on the fudge sauce, the skulls will slide off the cake. 

Happy Halloween ! !

 

 

 

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Quick and Easy Baking/Meal Planning

Has the craziness of September caught up with you yet? Well I hate to be the bearer of bad news but October has officially arrived and brought along with it sports practices, dance lessons, fundraisers and school commitments. It can be difficult this time of year just to think of an idea for supper never mind actually implementing a regular dinner meal. My family has a few regular favourites for weeknight dinners but I also like to mix things up so it doesn’t get boring.

One of the things I love to do is highlight seasonal VEGETABLES. Try to make time for your local weekend farmer’s market or find some friends who may have extra garden produce that they are willing to share. Often in October farmers are pulling out their carrots, potatoes and peppers. I can think of a ton of protein options that go well with all of these vegetables.

POTATOES are a main side dish in many homes because of their ability to fill us up. If you find something missing on your plate at dinner often it is the starch. There are so many different kinds of potatoes you can usually get away with serving them several times in a week just by changing up the type of potato or preparation style.

“Potatoes are rich in vitamins A and C, and B vitamins, as well as certain types of minerals. Some varieties even have phytonutrients that have antioxidant properties.”

http://foodfacts.mercola.com/potato.html

If you find yourself with no potatoes, change-up the carbs and try quinoa, rice, gnocchi, bean or some pasta tossed with butter and herbs.

CARROTS are harvested in September as well and the farmer’s market will probably 21363032_10155421035370700_1115434942_nhave large bags of them for purchase. A bag of carrots goes a long way in our home and they are pretty cheap. We chop them up and have them on the side with burgers or as a snack in our kid’s lunches. Hamburgers are a quick and easy meal option, and they can be healthy and filling if you offer lots of tomatoes, mushrooms and other veggies on the side. And for those times you find yourself with way too many carrots, make a carrot cake….I have a good recipe which is basically fool-proof. http://wp.me/p3QU1I-1W

 

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I also saw a recipe for Inside Outside Carrot Cake cookies and they look absolutely amazing. Let me know if you make them and I may stop by for coffee that day.

And then there are PEPPERS. Some people love them and others hate them. Peppers are a fridge staple in our house. I use yellow, red and orange bell peppers as a side dish with many different protein options. One of our favourites is Baked Chicken Breasts with Sweet Chili Sauce and Roasted Peppers. Its super easy and quick to toss a few chicken breasts in sweet chili sauce, put them in a roasting pan alongside a few quartered peppers and bake until the chicken is done. You have a full meal in just 30-40 minutes. If you need a starch, add in some quinoa on your plate to soak up any extra chili sauce.

Pepper

At the end of the season (usually mid October) sweet and hot peppers can often be purchased in bulk for pickling. Or if you are one to always have Taco Tuesday, dice up some peppers and add them in. For my family, my kids are required to take at least two offered vegetables for their tacos, so just make sure you offer a few veggie choices and you might be surprised at what they pick. 

Another variation on Chicken and Peppers is my recipe for Sweet and Sour Chicken. You can add in any vegetables that you think might work during the baking but I find that diced peppers pair really nicely with this recipe. If your kids like Pineapple, throw some in too…..unfortunately in my house nobody is a fan of Pineapple (other than myself). 

Baked Sweet and Sour Chicken: Total time ~ 1 hr 10 minutes

Preparation: ~10 Minutes
Pre-heat oven to 325 degrees and grease or line a baking dish with parchment paper
Prepare Sweet and Sour Sauce, either homemade or store-bought (homemade is best: sugar, ketchup, soy sauce, vinegar, garlic powder mixed together)
Dice 2-3 uncooked chicken breasts
Add 2/3 Cup of Flour or Cornstarch to a ziplock bag and add in some seasonings (garlic powder, salt, pepper, cayenne pepper etc.)
Add 2 eggs to a bowl and beat

Baking: ~60 Minutes
Dip chicken pieces first in the eggs
Then add chicken to the ziplock bag of flour/cornstarch and toss until all of the pieces are coated
Add 2 Tbsp of vegetable oil to a non-stick frying pan and add chicken until just lightly browned
Add sweet and sour sauce to chicken to coat
Spread out chicken in a single layer on the prepared baking dish/pan
Cook for 40-50 minutes tossing at least once
Meanwhile – make rice
Bake chicken unit is cooked through, sauce has thickened and the chicken looks browned on the outside
Serve over your favourite rice and ENJOY!

Pantry List:
3 Chicken Breasts
2/3 C Flour or Cornstarch
2 Eggs
Seasonings (Salt, Pepper, Garlic)
Rice (Any kind)
2 Tbsp Vegetable Oil
Ketchup
Soy Sauce
Vinegar
Sugar

If you love to default to your crock-pot, why not throw in some Peppers into your Spaghetti Sauce? A quick and easy to prepare supper in the crock-pot is Spaghetti Meat Sauce. Throw in some ground beef, tomato sauce, herbs/spices, chopped onion, mushrooms, peppers and cook on low for the day. Then when you get home all you have to do is give it a big stir and put on a pot of pasta and supper is ready. Trust me, your family will appreciate your homemade effort and your house will smell amazing when you get home from work. 

And finally, what would be a blog post without a little baking? For the start of yet another busy week I have tried a new tasty recipe to share. Raspberry Chocolate Chip Muffins. They are delicious and you might want to just hide them all for yourself. I added in chocolate chips to my recipe – because….why not?

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Recipe from: A Burst of Beautiful: “The Best Homemade Raspberry Muffins”

Flavours of Fall & Pumpkin Salad Dressing!?!

Fall and back to school has come too soon. Everything is themed Pumpkin and Cinnamon Spice and the long sweaters are coming out. I actually love this time of the year; the time when our family gets back into a routine and we can harvest some of the vegetables which have been dutifully growing throughout the summer.

One of my favourite parts of Fall is the baking and cooking with Fall flavours. I saw this recipe online for Pumpkin Spice donuts and it looks amazing. I haven’t tried it yet, but if you try it please let me know and send me a pic! pumpkin-spice-donuts So far the only Fall Baking I have managed to make is Chocolate Walnut Zucchini Loaf (which was delicious btw).

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Chocolate Walnut Zucchini Loaf

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There are also so many ideas on Pinterest for Fall Baking. I have made my own Board on Pinterest for Fall Baking Ideas. 

https://www.pinterest.com/adriennebraithw/fall-baking/

One of the things I can’t wait to try with my kids is homemade fruit leather. If you have any recipes for this I would love to hear about them. I save a pin for Strawberry fruit leather, but I would have to use frozen berries at this time of year. I would prefer to make some kind with seasonally fresh fruits. Here is the recipe I am considering trying for Strawberry fruit leather on Pinterest. 

 

Apples, apples and more apples. With so many apples ripening in the Fall I am looking forward to some yummy apple dishes. Apples are so versatile and there are so many different types to try. Some varieties are wonderful in pies but others are a good fit for use in savoury dishes. Apples can also add a perfect crispness when added to salads. 

 

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Don’t forget about the vegetables too! Pumpkins, tomatoes, squash and zucchini are ripening and harvested in the Fall. I am not sure what one does with some of these crazy looking vegetables, but I often use them for center-pieces or Fall decorating. 

It can be a challenge to find light and refreshing side dishes to go with the heaviness of Zucchini and Tomato with dinner. I found a perfect salad recipe that I think you will like, it will go perfectly with all those Fall foods you have in your house (squash, yams, apples). Toss some veggies or apples with freshly chopped lettuce, sprinkle on a few nuts and/or cranberries and drizzle with the Pumpkin dressing! I have just added the link to the blog/recipe since it is not my own. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do!

Pumpkin Goddess Salad Dressing” recipe from: The Seasoned Mom 

Happy Fall Baking and please feel free to comment/share some of your Fall Favourite recipes as I know everyone is looking for back to school meals and snacks.

Butterfly Party

children-2112668_640They say rules are made for breaking. This year was supposed to be a no party year. For my children I do an alternating year for birthday parties, one year my son will get one and the next my daughter. However, this year my daughter is turning 6 and she has been talking about having a birthday party for MONTHS, literally. So I gave in and said we would have just a few friends and family come and we decided on a Butterfly theme.

THE THEME

Butterflies are a perfect theme for those looking to cost save on a birthday party as well as have a large selection of paraphernalia to choose from. For my daughter’s party we purchased a few things like hanging streamers and edible butterfly wafer paper for the cake but otherwise many things were hand-made. My son spent hours working on painting his own designed giant cardboard butterfly and it was a perfect decoration. For some people looking for inspiration for a butterfly party, I have included some pictures and ideas below. To give your creativity a nudge, check out Pinterest which has a ton of helpful resources. 

THE PARTY

Some ideas for the party:

  • butterfly nets/catchers
  • butterfly wings
  • butterfly wall & window stickers
  • strings with paper butterflies attached to “catch” with nets
  • fruit platter in the shape of a butterfly
  • “butterfly food” labels on snacks
  • napkins folded into butterflies
  • napkins and forks tied together to look like a butterfly
  • for lots of ideas, check out my Pinterest Board: Butterfly Birthday Party.

20643594_10155341297540700_427818676_nFor party favours, try easy diy butterfly candy bags (see pictures below), butterfly wands or headbands (check out Amazon’s party pack), butterfly nets or wings to take home and even butterfly glow sticks (found at most Dollar stores or Amazon). 

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THE CAKE

Last but not least, the cake. Pinterest has SOO many good examples of what you can do to make a butterfly cake. You can even make a butterfly shape out of cupcakes and save yourself a great deal of precious time. Keep in mind that kids will not usually eat very much cake at a birthday party and always try to choose flavour over design. Packaged fondant gives your cake a sleek look but nobody really likes the taste of it. 

I opted for a simple but unique cake design. The layers are made with boxed french vanilla cake mixes with some strawberry jello and/or food colouring mixed in for flavour and colour.  The icing is a simple buttercream icing: butter, icing sugar and heavy cream. For added flavour you can add a tablespoon of fruit reduction to buttercream icing once it has been whipped. In my cake I added a raspberry reduction to the middle layer giving it a refreshing taste and a natural pink colour.

*A tip when you are adding fruit reduction to buttercream icing is to make sure you have very little water in your fruit puree, you want to boil down your fruit puree by at least half the amount of sugar, water and fruit you started with. Too much water in your fruit reduction can separate your buttercream icing. 

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The exterior of the cake has a crumb coat of buttercream icing and a second coat of icing which is smoothed down as much as possible. 

For the butterfly decoration, I chose edible wafer paper butterflies. Amazon really let me down on this one and my order is due to arrive several months after my daughter’s party! Luckily a friend with an edible ink printer saved the day and ran off a sheet of perfect wafer paper butterflies for me. We used a small crafting knife to cut out the butterflies and folded them twice just off centre to give a realistic design.

*A tip for attaching wafer paper or edible paper to a cake is to use a decorating brush to apply a small coat of corn syrup on the back of the paper before applying to your cake. The corn syrup is thin enough to not show through the paper and sticky enough to adhere to fondant or buttercream icing. 

I was very happy with the way the butterfly cake turned out. Never sell yourself short for attempting to make your own cake; a homemade cake LOOKS homemade because it TASTES homemade. 

Butterfly Cake
Edible Butterfly Cake

 

Happy Party Planning!

 

 

Chocolate Chip Muffins

Summer is in full swing at my house. During the school year we reach into the pantry for pre-packaged snacks while on the run but summer allows for a bit more time and effort to go into snacks. I am not sure if my children have even eaten 1 granola bar this summer. Muffins are a quick crowd pleaser in my house and rarely last through the day they are made. DFR1nOBUwAAE4iu

And EVERYONE loves Chocolate Chip Muffins. I would almost go as far as saying that these muffins are even better than…*Tim Hortons*. I know, you might beg to differ, but I am making that claim and unless you try them you will never know!

I have included the link to the web site that I got the recipe from. As much as I like to bake, I am not creative enough at this point to design my own recipes for very many things, and why would I modify a recipe if it is perfect already? So try your hand at some homemade snacks for your children this summer before reaching for those Costco boxes. Enjoy! 

Recipe from Little Sweet Baker: http://www.littlesweetbaker.com/2014/10/03/bakery-style-chocolate-chip-muffins-2/

 

 

Smarties Cookies! WHAT!?! 

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These are so delicious, you need to try them. A couple of tips and tricks:

  • Pat down your cookie balls before baking and add a couple of Smarties to the tops of each one
  • Don’t put too many on a tray, I put 6 or 7 to each tray, they spread out quite a bit!
  1. Cream together 3/4 Cup of White Sugar, 3/4 Cup of Brown Sugar and 1/2 Cup of Margarine or Butter.
  2. Add 1 Whole Egg, 2 Egg Yokes and some Vanilla Extract and mix
  3. Add 1 1/2 Cups of Flour, 1 Tsp Baking Power, 1/4 Tsp Baking Soda and a pinch of Salt and mix until just combined
  4. Add 1 Cup or more of SMARTIES and mix gently
  5. Chill for half an hour
  6. Bake on parchment covered baking sheets in 375 degree oven for 10-12 minutes
  7. Enjoy!

 

And then we were seeing RAINBOWS

Happy Summer! I will admit it has been WAY too long since I have posted anything food related on my blog but I have decided that my most recent creation makes the cut for a new post! This cake is super fun for summer with Jello colours and flavours and the addition of Swiss Meringue buttercream makes it sweetly delicious. For the melt in your mouth buttercream cream recipe I used on my cake check out Tessa Huff’s new cake book “Layered”.

 

Rainbow Cake
Rainbow Cake

To save myself some time and effort I used two white cake mixes for the base divided between five 8″ round cake pans. A cake mix which requires egg whites only instead of a full egg will give you a lighter and more fluffy cake consistency. To each 8″ round cake, I added 3 tbsp of Jello powder and  6 or 7 drops of food colouring of different colours. The Jello not only adds colour but also gives each cake layer a distinct fruit flavour; one reviewer commented that the results tasted like eating bowl of Fruit Loops! Although each cake mix is supposed to make just two 8″ pans I was able to easily spread out the mix from two boxes to make five 8″rounds.

 

Rainbow Cake Inside 2

To separate each cake layer when building the cake I used a thin layer of Cool Whip. Because I iced the outside of the cake with buttercream I did not want a thick layer of anything between each cake layer. Cool Whip provided just enough “stick” to keep the layers together and give a thin white line between colours. Some other options I considered using between the layers of the cake were chocolate fudge or jam. Chocolate fudge would look really great when making a darker or more vibrant cake with deeper colours such as blue, red and green.  All in all,                                                                            a half of a container of Cool Whip was sufficient for this cake.

Swiss Meringue Buttercream

For the outside, just have fun with the decorations. I opted for a no fondant look and did my best to make the buttercream as smooth as possible on the outside before applying any sprinkles.

Best of luck with anyone trying out this style of cake. It is super fun to make and to eat and will definitely WOW your guests.

Rainbow Cake Piece Rainbow Cake Inside

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